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Three swimmers saved from rip current

A Newport Beach resident caught a dramatic ocean rescue on video Monday afternoon when a lifeguard saved three young swimmers from a rip current and waves that could have smashed them into a jetty.

Joe Bowerbank went to the beach to watch the powerful 8-foot swells off the Balboa Peninsula, where he saw a lone lifeguard charge into the water near 48th Street.

Bowerbank's video shows seasonal lifeguard Wyatt Muller pulling three swimmers around a jetty moments before a large wave would have pushed them toward the rocks.

The group then slowly makes it to shore while a set of swells pounds into them and other lifeguards arrive.

"The video probably doesn't do it justice," said Bowerbank, who made a point of congratulating the rescuer and calling the lifeguard organization to compliment Muller's quick action.

"You would've had another headline on your hands had that guy not reacted so quickly," Bowerbank said.

The rescue came one day after the death of Ben Carlson, the first Newport Beach lifeguard to die in the line of duty in the division's 100-year history.

Carlson helped rescue a swimmer struggling in 6- to 8-foot waves Sunday evening but then disappeared among even larger swells.

Despite the loss, lifeguards have not hesitated to jump in the water.

"I don't think we're on edge, but it's certainly not business as usual," Lifeguard Battalion Chief Jim Turner said. "We're all grieving and mourning."

Muller's technique during the rescue was textbook, according to Turner.

The lifeguard grabbed the three youths, who ranged in age from about 7 to 13 years, and rode the rip current out past the jetty to where they could swim around the rocks.

Between Saturday and Monday, rescuers have made dozens of similar rescues from the heavy surf, which usually doesn't arrive in Newport until the end of August, Turner said.

"It was sort of a bread-and-butter rescue," he said. "The surf was certainly big enough to make it extraordinary."

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